Numerous websites exist just for the purpose of converting YouTube videos to MP3 (or a comparable audio format). The issue, however, is that many individuals seeking “lossless” or “CD-quality” audio are mislead by the capabilities of these converters.
If you’re not much of an audiophile and don’t care about MP3 bitrates, this post is not for you. However, if you routinely utilise online converters to download “320kbps” MP3s from YouTube videos, continue reading to learn why you’re wasting your time.
What Bitrate Does YouTube Stream Audio At?
YouTube cannot play audio at 320kbps, not even at the maximum video resolution. It does not even approach 320kbps. Youtube utilises two distinct audio file formats: AAC (inside an MP4 container) and Opus in a WebM container.
YouTube will play AAC audio at a maximum bitrate of around 126 kbps. It may range between 56 and 165 kbps for Opus. YouTube will automatically re-encode videos to utilise their format, regardless of the audio source format that is submitted. Therefore, even if you submit a video with lossless 24/96 audio, YouTube will convert it to 126 kbps AAC in an MP4 container.
Once a video hits a particular number of views and “becomes famous,” YouTube will automatically re-encode a WebM/Opus version of the video, which may be of somewhat superior quality (156 vs 126 kbps). There are several methods for testing this, but let’s use the free web programme “YouTube Video Info.”
“[Lossless] Dire Straits – Money for Nothing 24 Bit Sound 2K Video” is the title of the video we will use. This movie has been posted as an MKV file that has been combined with a lossless FLAC file, so it should sound fantastic.
Here is the result of running the video URL via the video info tool (note the bitrates circled in red). A stream with a configurable bitrate between 55 and 143 Kbps. We may repeat this process in VLC and analyse the codec while the video is streaming.
However, audio source does not carry much weight.
The video’s audio quality was really rather good considering its bitrate. What is the justification?
It came from a master studio recording in lossless format, which was outstanding source material. It will undoubtedly sound better than the overwhelming majority of videos that use MP3s that have been horribly compressed as their audio source. So even if it is not provided in lossless format, it still sounds superior than the average YouTube music video. There is no doubt, however, that YouTube is compressing the original audio source.
You may be asking why websites that offer “High-quality MP3 rips” from YouTube transform their YouTube videos to 320 Kbps MP3 after learning that YouTube compresses music to 128–156 Kbps.
There aren’t any.
In reality, the audio quality is reduced when a YouTube video is converted to 320 Kbps MP3. The audio will be taken out of YouTube’s AAC/MP4 container and converted to 320 Kbps MP3 by the conversion website. Every time an audio file is converted between formats, it undergoes recompression. By “upsampling” a 128 Kbps source to 320 Kbps MP3, you are really just adding a tonne of extra data, which is equivalent to background noise.
You have some old VHS tapes laying around, for example. They are burnt on DVD after being transferred to your PC. Do they change into videos of DVD quality? Or, let’s say you extend a photo file that is 500 × 500 pixels to 5000 x 5000. The image becomes blurrier even as the file size increases, right?
This is basically what occurs when a YouTube video is “converted” to a higher bitrate. If you need to convert YouTube videos to audio files without sacrificing audio quality, you should convert to a lossless format such as WAV or FLAC. The original YouTube video will not be compressed while reencoding.